On site at 4 o’clock on Saturday morning, race director Peter Rudd was a little wary of a threatening weather system hovering over Okanagan Lake.
A few hours later, more than 1,000 swimmers were treated to almost ideal conditions for the 68th edition of the Across the Lake Swim.
“When I got there, I couldn’t see mountains across the lake, but luckily the weather ended up being phenomenal,” Rudd said of the annual swim, which had 1,283 registered swimmers and 1,036 finishers. “The conditions were near perfect, there was very little current, no wind and there was no sun, so the reflection was nice and flat for the swimmers. It couldn’t have been much better.”
Coquitlam’s Tim James Woinoski took full advantage of the surroundings, coveringthe 2.1 km event from the Old Ferry Docks in West Kelowna to Hot Sands Beach in Kelowna in a winning time of 23 minutes 29 seconds.
Woinsoki’s younger brothers, Alex and Andrew, finished second and fourth respectively in 23:54 and 24:01, making it a true family affair. Only Trail’s Jackson Konkin prevented a top-three Woinoski sweep with a third-place showing in 23:56. Calgary’s Alison McCloy, who placed fifth overall, was the fastest female in 24:52.
While it still draws some of the best open water swimmers the sport has to offer, Rudd said the swim has evolved into a more inclusive, less competitive event than in the past.
“It’s more of a bucket-list event now, a chance for families to say they’ve been able to cross the lake,” he said. “A family-oriented event we’ve been moving towards the last few years.”
Kelowna’s Spencer Dean was the first local finisher, coming sixth in 24:52. Emily Epp was the first Kelowna female to step on to the beach, ranking 10th overall in 25:06.
A couple of former Olympic swimmers made an appearance, with Kelowna’s Jessica Deglau coming in 18th and Joanne Malar of Summerland in 25th.
The Kelowna pro triathlete husband-and-wife team of Trevor and Heaher Wurtele placed 12th and 24th, respectively. Renowned American masters swimmer, Karlyn Pipes, was 31st.
As usual, the age range was vast with swimmers from seven to 84 taking part in the longest running open water swim in Canada.
All things considered, Rudd said few of the swims have gone better in the nine years since he first joined the event as a volunteer.
“This was definitely one of the better ones,” he said. “Between the weather, the numbers, and the way it all ran with everyone coming out of the water safely, we were really happy.”
Each year, the Across the Lake Swim donates a portion of the registration fees to the YMCA Okanagan Swims Program, providing free lifesaving water safety skills to every Grade 3 student in the Central Okanagan. Rudd said there are plans to add Grade 4 students to the program next year.